Man in the middle: Israeli ambassador gives inside account of Obama-Netanyahu relationship

Jake Tapper, Richard Coolidge, Sherisse Pham & Jordyn Phelps
Power Players

Political Punch

In a lot of ways, Israeli Ambassador to the United States Michael Oren has been the man in the middle. Oren was born in New York and raised in New Jersey but gave up his American citizenship to take on the position of ambassador--a role that puts him squarely between two leaders who don't always see eye to eye.

"I'll tell you that the relationship is friendly, is frank, sometimes it's funny," says Oren. "That doesn't mean we've agreed on everything." After the election, Obama unequivocally supported what Israel was doing in Gaza, and the U.S. lobbied against the resolution for Palestinian statehood. Yet, after all of that, more settlements were announced, which left American supporters of Israel questioning Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's relationship with Obama.

"If Palestinians are going to take unilateral actions in the U.N., we want to send a message that someday we might build there," says Oren, who said they were not new settlements, but apartment blocks in existing settlements. "Now, there's no building right now, this was just a preliminary plan, there's a way of sending a very restrained message, and keeping the process going, not stopping the process."

During the recent excursion into Gaza, it appeared as though journalists were targeted because they were seen as a propaganda arm of Hamas. Oren maintains that they were not in fact journalists, but actually Hamas officials.

"We have to deal with an enemy ... that hides and embeds itself in a civilian population," says Oren. "And also disguise itself as civilians. I mean, they don't have uniforms, they don't have, you know, personal ID numbers."

But that also means that innocent civilians get killed in these situations, which is what happened in Gaza.

"The diff between us and our enemies ... their goal is to kill as many Israeli civilians as possible. When they kill Israeli citizens, they celebrate. There was a bus bombing in Tel Aviv, Hamas gave out candy on the streets of Gaza," says Oren.

For more of this interview, including what could happen if Iran goes nuclear, check out this week's Political Punch.